Mistakes Happen: How the Law Treats Mistakes in Marital Settlement Agreements

Mistakes Happen: How the Law Treats Mistakes in Marital Settlement Agreements

You work hard to come up with a marital settlement agreement that you and your ex can agree on. You often reach this point after multiple rounds of negotiations, significant compromises, and stressful disputes. What happens, then, when there’s a mistake in your marital settlement agreement? Do you have to go back to square one or are there other options for divorced couples?

As you navigate your divorce, it’s crucial to have an attorney you can trust. That’s where we come in. The team at the Pence Law Firm is committed to helping individuals fight for their best interests during a split. Call our firm at 304-345-7250 to set up a time to talk now.

Enforceability of Marital Settlement Agreements in West Virginia

Per state law, when a couple reaches a settlement and writes a settlement agreement, that agreement is legally enforceable in the same that any other written contract is. However, there are circumstances under which the court will find the agreement to be unenforceable. If the agreement was agreed upon when one party was under duress, the court will not uphold it. They will also refuse to uphold it if either party engages in fraud or other egregious conduct to secure a settlement. For example, if one party fails to disclose assets or income for their own benefit, the court may step in.

Common Marital Settlement Agreement Mistakes

There are numerous ways that mistakes may arise in marital settlement agreements. Ideally, these mistakes would never happen—one of the benefits of working with an experienced attorney is that they are aware of these mistakes and do everything they can to avoid them. Common mistakes include:

  • Miscalculations: For example, if a couple agrees on $100,000 of alimony split over five years, that would be 60 monthly payments of about $1,666.66 each. If the calculation is done incorrectly and divided over six years or the total amount is entered incorrectly, the order may need to be amended.
  • Ambiguous language: When a court order can be interpreted in multiple ways, it is generally meaningless since it can be interpreted in favor of either party.
  • Omitted terms: When the attorneys involved in a divorce fail to address specific assets, custody needs, or other issues in a divorce, it can lead to disputes about parenting time, asset division, and more.
  • Fraud, coercion, and duress: Marital settlement agreements formed under duress, with coercion, or after fraud are unenforceable. This is egregious misconduct on the part of the party trying to benefit from coercing their spouse.
  • Obvious typos or errors: Consider a couple that agrees to $500 per month in child support. A typo leads to a court order for $5,000 per month in child support for someone making that much monthly. Obviously, this error would need to be corrected.

Legal Remedies for Mistakes

There are situations in which the court will relieve a party or their legal representative from a final order. Under state law, clerical mistakes can be corrected by the court of its own volition or by either party. Mistakes, inadvertence, excusable neglect, fraud, and other issues may excuse the parties from the agreement. However, certain conditions must be met. For example, newly discovered evidence is only a reason for a new court order if the new evidence could not have been discovered by due diligence in time to request a new trial. If an attorney is simply inefficient, that may not be enough.

One of the parties involved must file a motion to request relief from the judgment. This may lead to an unwinding of the agreement in cases involving fraud or duress, or a modification or correction to fix more basic mistakes. The parties may also negotiate or bargain to agree on necessary modifications.

When these situations arise, time is of the essence. You must connect with your Charleston divorce attorney immediately to discuss your concerns and come up with a plan.

Considering Your Options During Divorce? Call The Pence Law Firm Today

Whether you’ve uncovered errors in your marital settlement agreement or you’re just starting to work through the beginning stages of your split, we’re here to help. Call our team of Charleston attorneys at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation immediately.